Eric's Tips for Helping Others With Bipolar
You are a loving, caring person. Going out of your way to help someone in need is commonplace. If a loved one needs advice, a good meal or a ride to the store, you will be there.
Lately, you have been concerned about someone close to you. They have not been acting like themselves. When you talk to each other, you notice that their opinions and views have changed. Their perspective on the world and priorities are completely different from the person you used to know. The changes make you think only one thing: bipolar disorder. It’s all over TV and the internet so it makes sense that bipolar would affect someone in your life.
How to Help Someone With Bipolar
Helping someone with bipolar can be challenging because understanding the symptoms of bipolar and helping someone else notice the changes in themselves is a delicate endeavor. Follow these tips to protect the relationship and get your loved one the help that they may need. Here’s how:
- Come from a place of love. If you are sure that you want to undertake this task consider the best method to receive the best results. The approach you take to the situation will influence everything that follows. Blurting out “You’re bipolar!” at Thanksgiving is not going to be well received and will only lessen your credibility in the future. Maintaining a strong relationship will enable your message to be accepted.
- Watch for symptoms. If you have been noticing troubling signs and symptoms, write them down. Gathering a base of information will assist you in presenting a compelling case later. Look for changes in mood, energy levels, sleep, decision-making, risk taking and track what you see. Since the cycles of bipolar disorder are often longer than two weeks, plan to collect material for at least a month.
- Know the criteria. People often have misconceptions about what bipolar disorder is and how it operates. Someone being happy one minute and sad the next does not mean they have bipolar disorder. Generally, bipolar disorder means that someone has met the criteria for a manic episode as well as a depressive episode. A manic episode is a week-long period where someone has symptoms including decreased need for sleep, increased energy, inflated self-esteem, and an increase in risky behavior. A depressive episode is a two week period of low mood, low energy, sleep and/or appetite changes, and other symptoms. Someone with bipolar tends to switch between depressive and manic episodes with periods of calm in between. These episodes will present differently for different people.
- Watch again. Now that you know what you are look for, watch your loved one again. Are you still thinking that bipolar is a part of their life? Move on.
- Encourage treatment. Do you hold an advanced degree in counseling or psychiatry? If the answer is no, leave the therapy to the professionals. The best advice you can give your loved one is to seek out treatment. People with bipolar disorder typically benefit from a combination of medication and therapy. Tell them your concerns and how you think treatment would benefit them. Let them know you care and would be willing to attend appointments to increase their comfort. If they disagree, give them space. Therapy only works on the willing.
You love to help. The people in your life are lucky to have you. When it comes to bipolar, work smart, not hard. Understanding the disorder and encouraging treatment is the best course of action. Your loved one will be happy you did.